How to Get a Classic Start Menu in Windows 7

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Do you miss the fly-out menus from the old classic Windows 98 Start menu? Those were the menus that expanded across the screen to show all the sub-folders and sub-sub-folders, etc. Not everybody liked them but there are still many PC users who wish they were back. In Windows XP and Vista, Microsoft gave an alternative option called the “Classic Start menu” that provided the old display. That option is gone in Windows 7 but there are some tricks to restore some of the old features.

One change that you can make will configure some of the default Start menu entries to show a menu instead of just a link to an Explorer window. Follow the procedure given in a previous tip (link here) to open the “Customize Start Menu” dialog. The list of customizations includes possible settings for "Computer", "Documents", and others. Figure 1 shows some of the possible entries that can be customized. Figure 2 shows an example of what you get for Computer when "Display as a menu" is chosen. Folder contents are listed but sub-folders can’t be expanded. It’s not exactly the old fly-out but it’s a start.

Figure 1. Customize Start menu entries
Customize Start Menu

Figure 2. "Computer" listing configured as a menuComputer entry as a menu

I will give some more advanced methods to get a cascading menu in another tip.

Software for a classic Start menu in Windows 7

If you really yearn for the old style Start menu, there are several free programs available. I don’t use it but one that seems to have many fans is called "Classic Shell". It can be downloaded from Source Forge at this link. A description of its use is given here. Note that there are three components to the program, "Classic Explorer", "Classic Start Menu", and "Classic IE9". Be aware that this last installs a toolbar. You can install the three components separately. If you want to give the program a try, you might install  "Classic Start Menu" only. 

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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